Six Nations 2014: Warren Gatland stays true to tried and trusted squad to rise above turmoil


Warren Gatland already knows a thing or two about laying hands on the union code's glittering prizes, but if he makes Six Nations history over the next few weeks by coaching Wales to a third successive title, his reputation as a rugby alchemist will be secure. The 32-man squad he announced looked extremely powerful, but with several key players in contractual limbo, others plying their trade abroad and still more lamenting the viciousness of the political turf war west of the Severn, the New Zealander may have a difficult job bringing people together in common cause.

Gatland did not feel the need to pick any uncapped players, largely because the likes of Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Gethin Jenkins, Ryan Jones and the captain, Sam Warburton, were all expected to recover from various aches and pains in time to play in the forthcoming competition.

The one surprise was the demotion of Lloyd Williams, the Cardiff Blues scrum-half, who looked like a world-beater in the making a couple of years ago. He found himself overtaken by Rhys Webb of Ospreys, who turned in a decent Heineken Cup performance against Northampton last weekend, and the Scarlets No 9 Rhodri Williams.

Unsurprisingly, given the sharp deterioration in relations between the Welsh Rugby Union (which pays Gatland very handsomely) and the four regional teams, who barely have so much as a groat between them, there was much talk of off-field matters as the squad was confirmed. The coach openly acknowledged that a problem existed, without shining even the faintest light on how matters might be resolved.

"We know there are some politics going on but we will put that to one side, come together as a group and focus on our rugby, which is something we can control," he said, a day after wondering aloud in public about the sustainability of the four-region structure in a volatile environment, increasingly dominated by big-spending French clubs and rebellious English ones.

"We have the opportunity to create history and that will give us extra motivation," he added. "We have three games at home and two tough away matches against Ireland and England, but they were the fixtures when we won our Grand Slams in 2008 and 2012. We know it can be done."

Assuming the current crocks are declared fit sooner rather than later – the France-bound Scarlets centre Davies is the most seriously injured, having wrecked a pectoral muscle during the autumn internationals – and no one mangles himself anew on regional duty this weekend, Wales will chase an unprecedented Six Nations hat-trick with a group of players gifted and experienced in equal measure. They may not have vast strength in depth at tight-head prop – who has? – but when a coach can choose between Davies, Roberts, Scott Williams and the compelling James Hook in midfield, or run two of Warburton, Justin Tipuric and Dan Lydiate on the flanks, he is not exactly stranded in a selectorial desert. They will take a good deal of stopping.

Ireland, who gave the new coach Joe Schmidt a lift with their bold performance against the All Blacks before Christmas, named a 44-man squad featuring seven new faces, many of whom were filling gaps left by more familiar names who will stay on the outside looking in until they prove their fitness – high-profile individuals like the Lions wings Tommy Bowe and Simon Zebo, the lock Donnacha Ryan and the hooker Richardt Strauss. The most interesting of the uncapped brigade was the unusually rapid No 8 Robin Copeland, who has been in startling form for Cardiff Blues of late.

On the club front, Gloucester finally confirmed what everyone has known for ages: namely, that the England outside-half Freddie Burns will leave Kingsholm at the end of the season. He is widely thought to have signed for Leicester, although the Midlanders are keeping mum for the moment.

Wales squad

Backs L Williams (Scarlets), L Halfpenny (Cardiff), G North (Northampton), A Cuthbert (Cardiff), S Williams (Scarlets), J Roberts (Racing Metro), J Davies (Scarlets), J Hook (Perpignan), R Priestland (Scarlets), D Biggar (Ospreys), M Phillips (Metro), R Williams (Scarlets), R Webb (Ospreys).

Forwards P James (Bath), G Jenkins (Cardiff), R Bevington, A Jones (both Ospreys), S Lee, Rhodri Jones (both Scarlets), R Hibbard (Ospreys), K Owens, E Phillips (both Scarlets), A W Jones (Ospreys), L Charteris (Perpignan), I Evans (Ospreys), A Coombs (Newport-Gwent Dragons), Ryan Jones, J Tipuric (both Ospreys), S Warburton (Cardiff, capt), D Lydiate (Metro), A Shingler (Scarlets), T Faletau (Newport).

Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
tvGame of Thrones season 5 episode 1 review
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
Astronauts could be kept asleep for days or even weeks
scienceScientists are looking for a way to keep astronauts in a sleeplike state for days or weeks
Fabian Delph celebrates his goal
footballChristian Benteke and Fabian Delph turn semi-final after Liverpool goal
Life and Style
Model wears: top £29.50, leggings £25, jacket £29.50, bag £25, all
Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace